Archive for August, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Don’t Try to Fix What Humbles You

Readings:

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

Heb 12:18-19

Luke 14: 1, 7-14


The call of the Scripture readings today is: humble yourself.


St Augustine said, “ Worldly society has flowered from a selfish love which dared to despise even God, whereas the communion of the saints is rooted in a love of God that is ready to trample on self.


I don’t know about you , I can accept that humility is the call for every Christian , but it’s a long way from accepting the teaching and making true application to the inner man…especially in the culture we live in.


What is true humility? I could go through the list of a few  right answers for the test like :


being free from preoccupation with self

looking at ourselves truthfully the way God sees us

one who doesn’t look for fame, reputation, success or failure


Those are some good topics for essays that might get an A. But read the church fathers on the subject of humility, read The Rule of St Benedict Chpt 7 or study the lives of the saints. Now we’ve departed from  the familiar and easy to those “rooted in a love of God that is ready to trample on self.”  Try opening up a discussion on THAT at your next dinner party.


No body WANTS to be last. It’s not in our nature . What comes natural to us is self-promotion, honor position, power, control and recognition.  That’s the short list for the greatest sin known to man. Pride. My pastor said in his homily it’s the ego that burns in hell.


There are so many people I admire. I have a bad habit of comparing and measuring myself against the accomplishments of others and falling short in my own estimation.  It’s a twisted sort of reverse pride, yet pride nonetheless. In past years I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve– in essence to fix what I deemed  “scars” that kept me from a seat of honor at the table. I at least wanted to be qualified to be INVITED to sit there. The fruit of that philosophy was judging others, despair and not accepting God’s will for me.


Jesus says take the lowest seat at the table.


It’s only recently that I realized what a true gift my inadequacies really are.  It was a wise priest who had put up with my story of angst in the confessional several times, who finally looked at me one day and said,


“ Don’t try to fix what humbles you . EMBRACE YOUR SCARS. When you meet Jesus one day , you can share yours with His.”


A whole new world of true self knowledge opened for me that day. One where I really began to understand that what I’d seen as missed opportunities to measure up to and  be accepted by the world were actually God’s gift to me …in essence a thorn in my side to buffet me and keep me humble.


“Have this in mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus who, though He was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. “   Philip  2: 5-8


Press your scars to the wounds of Christ and He will teach you the kind of humility that will find favor with God.


PAX+


posted by Caroline  |   3:47 AM  |   0 comments
Monday, August 23, 2010

Will Only a Few People be Saved?

Sunday’s Gospel  Lk 13:22-30


“There’s been a lot of ink spilled over this question.”


Sometimes that’s the answer I give to my Faith Formation class when they ask a doozy question like this for which they are infamous. They have come to accept that when I give that answer I have done my dutiful dance around what I know the Catechism, the Bible, or the church fathers say about their particular inquiry.  The problem is the longer you teach…especially children…the more you know you don’t know very much….. at all.


I’m happy when I hear anyone ask this question from Sunday’s Gospel.  At least I know they don’t assume it’s a done deal just because they’re “a good person,” or because they “love everyone” .


St. Theresa of Avila said,  ”The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

For a culture that has decided they have a set of standards all their own the absolutes of  true Christianity for which not only ink has been spilled but blood, these are sobering words.

The Lord Jesus says in this scripture,” Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many I tell you attempt to enter , but will not be strong enough.” (vs 24)


Honestly, this is a difficult passage but not impossible to understand.  That’s not because I “know” the answer as much as because I know “WHO” is the answer.


Someone asked Jesus this question as He passed through the towns and villages teaching. Did He give them an answer ? Yes, but not directly.   He didn’t tell them how many will be saved; that misses the point. The point is , you. Your salvation. Worry about …..you.  Secondly, if He did tell us how many or who we’d start exalting ourselves or comparing ourselves . Please– can you even imagine the line at the customer complaint desk .


So what’s a person to do if many are going to try and not succeed ? Why bother then? Because– it’s the Lord’s desire for none to be lost.  That’s ….well , everybody ! He wants everyone to be with Him in Heaven.


What about the narrow gate then? You mean He wants everybody to be with Him, but the gate is narrow ?


Exactly. The only way to enter heaven is through Jesus . He is the gate. ( Matt 7: 13-14) and His ways do not conform to the world.


“We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” “Then He will say to you ,” I don’t know where you are from.”(vs. 27)


The word on the street is : the church is a mess, Mass is  boring , I can’t understand the Bible, I don’t have time to pray,  people are hypocrites, the church’s teachings need updating, we need a Vatican III ……..ad nauseum.


“ I don’t know where you are from . Depart from me you evildoers.”


The gate is narrow, because it is shaped like Christ.  Conform yourself to His ways, then one day we can hope to join all the people who will come from the east and the west, the north and the south ..


and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.

+PAX



posted by Caroline  |   3:46 AM  |   0 comments
Friday, August 20, 2010

Valley of Dry Bones

www.ibiblio.org

Sounds like the name of a rock group. Not to to worry ; I’m not going there.


Actually, it’s the scene out of today’s first reading of the Mass.  Ezekiel 37 :1-14.  This great Old Testament prophet had the job of warning, exhorting and comforting the people of God who had been exiled in Babylon. It was a thankless job to say the least. His contemporary was Jeremiah; yes, the one who was warning the citizens of Jerusalem of coming destruction. He didn’t have too many friends either.


Scholars say Ezekiel was given this vision after the destruction of Jerusalem around 586BC when the Jewish people exiled in Babylon had become disheartened,  depressed and utterly despaired of hope.


This is what you learn when you develop a love for Scripture; God never leaves His people alone in the dark. NEVER. He always sends a message of  comfort, warning or exhortation. Maybe we don’t like the message, but He’ll never leave us without one.


It was the hand of the Lord that came upon Ezekiel and led him to this plain filled with dry, bleached bones. The Scripture says that God made him walk among the bones in EVERY direction so he could see how many and how dry they were.

Then God questions him, “Son of man, can these bones come to life?” To which he replies..well Lord, only You know that. (my paraphrase)


I think we can relate to Ezekiel’s dilemma . Sometimes in life we look around us and all we see are dead bones. Maybe it’s mistakes we’ve made in the past that have devastated our present circumstances..maybe it’s mistakes others have made and we’ve been the recipient..maybe it’s witnessing the consequences of a culture seemingly bent on destroying itself as it decides daily to run farther from God. It’s just like the Lord to put the question of faith to us when it looks hopelessly impossible. This is when He asks us , “Do you think I can restore your life?”  “Do you think there’s any hope for your country….for the church?”


Looks like dead bones to me Lord…a whole valley full of them. Only you know.


The Lord tells His prophet what to do. “Prophesy over these bones ,and say to them: Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord. !”  The Scripture tells us Ezekiel prophesied as he was told and while he was prophesying ( nothing like a little demonstration of  walking by faith and not by sight) …he hears a noise and the rattling bones come together, but there was no spirit in them.  He prophesies again and from the four winds God breathes “into the slain that they may come to life.”


“….. they came alive and stood upright , a vast army.”   vs.10


What?  The people had said, “ our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we’re cut off.” (vs.11)  Now you have a living, breathing vast army filled with the Spirit of God?”


While this account in Scripture applies to the whole house of Israel and God’s promise to restore and revive a dead people don’t miss the application for us today. We too are a spiritually dead, dry and despondent people; we have no hope of being resurrected apart from God. I don’t guess that’s a popular thing to say, but it’s true . It is the Spirit of God alone who can miraculously restore us as individuals  as a nation and as a church to once again be the people He has intended us to be.


It’s OK to recognize the the despair around us. After all it was the Lord who led Ezekiel to survey the scene on the plain. But don’t despair. Don’t count the dead bones from your past . Trust that it is God alone who gives life to the lifeless and restoration to the hopeless.


“Son of man, can these bones come to life?”

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   3:44 AM  |   0 comments
Friday, August 06, 2010

The Feast of the Transfiguration

Luke 9:28b-36

Icon of the Feast of the Transfiguration


This feast has been observed in the Universal Church since the 15t Century, but in the East as far back as the 5th Century. It’s always been one of my favorite Gospel accounts because I’m always in need of some kind of trans-figurative illumination from my daily struggles.


It’s a perfect day to spend in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament . You can place yourself on Mt. Tabor with Peter, James and John looking into the face of Jesus as they witnessed His Glory..and know that the Lord is looking back at you.  In the silence of your contemplation, listen for His voice…because the Father told the disciples to “listen” to His Son. The Transfiguration reminds us that our lives can only be changed by His power. Though our struggle with sin, sorrow or suffering can cause us to feel as if we are crumbling under the weight of it’s power, when you look into Christ’s face as you sit in adoration, He will know what you thirst for and give you His living water.  ( Jn 7: 37 RSV)


On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed,


“If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the


Scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”


The Transfiguration is ultimately about  vision and a transformation…that of Christ giving his disciples a glimpse of His true Glory. That’s why I think this is a beautiful gospel to meditate on as you sit before the Blessed Sacrament.


  • Climb the mountain of your sorrow and place them  before His body, blood, soul and divinity
  • Listen for His voice and immerse yourself in His Glory that you may receive His living water
  • Don’t build a tent there
  • Come down the mount with confidence that His power is greater than your need

Lord, grant us the grace of Your light here on earth,  that we may see Your Glory in Heaven.

+PAX



posted by Caroline  |   3:40 AM  |   0 comments
Monday, August 02, 2010

Will The Real Prophet Please Stand Up

Jeremiah Icon 18th Century


That’s the question of our day as sure as it was for the Old Testament people. Today’s Mass reading in Jer 28: 1-17 plays out a struggle between a false prophet and a true one: Hananiah and Jeremiah respectively.


At this time in Israel’s history, they’re in exile being ruled by a puppet king as a consequence of their disobedience to God with whom they had a covenant. They had been told that the best response would be to humble themselves and learn from this discipline. They’re not very happy with that instruction. In fact the book of Jeremiah is quite graphic about just how unhappy they are with the truth  this weeping prophet continually gives God’s people.


Along comes Hananiah who tells the people (my paraphrase) don’t worry about anything. God’s going to restore what you’ve lost, make you comfortable again and you don’t have a thing to learn from this trial. It was a sham prophecy.  In contrast Jeremiah tells the people ..you are being disciplined . You’d best accept this humbly and learn from it so you can live as God’s people like your supposed to.


Would you like to guess which prophecy the people preferred? They liked the one who said ..not to worry….NO PROBLEM.


Jeremiah knew you can ‘t make things right if you don’t have a change of heart and come back to God.


You’ll have to read the rest of the book to see what happens.


But what about us? What about all the modern prophets we have to choose from in  the 21st Century ?


Will the real prophet please stand up?


It’s what  mom’s call a teachable moment .


Today’s gospel reading is from Matt : 14: 13-21


This is when Jesus has just heard that John the Baptist  died and He tries to get away by Himself but the crowds find out and follow Him. He sees them and moved with pity, heals the sick. The disciples approach Him because it’s getting late and they want Jesus to dismiss the people so they can go buy their own food.


Jesus says ,“There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”


You can only imagine the look on the disciples faces as they tell Jesus , look we only have five loaves and two

fish….that’s it.


Jesus instructs them to bring them to Him, then orders the crowd to sit down on the grass. Looking up to heaven, He says the blessing, breaks the loaves, gives it to His disciples who in turn give it to the crowds. Five thousand men , not counting women and children.


What does that have to do with two Old Testament prophets ?  Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophets. The one who is guaranteed to tell us the truth all the time. He can feed the multitudes because is IS the Bread of Life. He will always tell us the truth because He is God in the flesh …and God is not like a man that He should lie.  ( Num 23: 19, Titus 1:2)


Do you struggle with how to discern the truth of today’s messengers ? It’s an old problem and your not alone.


Now that you know Jesus is the true prophet who never lies, you can be assured that  He will always tell you the truth. You can trust Him with the right message…even when it’s hard and requires a change of heart.


Because He loves you.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   4:42 AM  |   0 comments